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A Year of Trying to be a Better Mom

Day 45: Jackson Pollock Painting June 3, 2010

I love it when things work out exactly as I had planned. It makes me feel a little like doing a diabolical villain laugh, “Muahahahahahahaha,” while tapping my finger tips together. Even though my intentions were clearly the opposite of diabolical!

Zach woke up this morning and asked to read a library book. He actually says it just like that, “Read library book, Mommy?” And if I don’t hear him, or do what he requests in an appropriate amount of time (read: 2 seconds after he asked), he starts repeating, “Library book. Library book. LIBRARY BOOK!” with increasing notes of whiny-ness and volume until I do.

So, I pulled out The Art Book for Children and we started to read about and look at the pictures. Reading through this book the entire way would be a bit like reading him the encyclopedia at this age, it’s very long. So we just flipped to a few of the pictures. One of them was on “my list” of project ideas from library books. The Jackson Pollock painting, Number 1, 1948.

Number 1, 1948 by Jackson Pollock

As we were looking at this painting, and the corresponding photos that went with it, showing Pollock doing the “splatter” method, Zach pointed to him and said, “Color?” Which was his way of asking if Pollock was coloring. To which I replied, “He’s painting, which is kind of like coloring. Do you want to paint?” Zach happily replied, ‘Yeah!!” And this mama did a victory dance! That’s exactly how I wanted it to go!

So I went to the kitchen and got us all set up.

Craft paper, spoons (and anything else you might want to paint with), painters/masking tape, paints and containers all on a drop cloth

Then I taped a piece of the paper to the drop cloth, so that when we started painting it would stay put. I also squirted some paint into my containers and then thinned it out a bit with water (for maximum splatter-ability).

Paper secured to the floor

Paint into containers

Thinned with water

Then I just let him have at it. I showed him how to fling the paint on the spoons onto the paper to make the splatter marks and he went to town.

Splatter painting

After a few times splattering with each color, Zach asked if his tractor could paint. And I thought, why not? It would probably look pretty cool and it’s a great way to let him use his imagination and creativity. So we rolled the tractor in the paint splatters to make cool looking tire treads on the paper. Then we looked around for other things to paint with. One was a circle (it’s actually a screw on lid to our Magic Bullet containers, if anyone has one of those to reference). We also used a shovel by smacking the flat end of it down onto the paper with paint. And a tennis ball, by rolling it around in the paint (it looks a lot like sponge painting). Ironically, the very last thing Zach asked for was a paint brush!

Painting with a "tractor"

Brush painting

In the end, I think we got some very Pollock-like results!

The artist and his work

Number 1, 2010 by Zachary

What did Zach learn today? To let his creative juices flow and think outside the box. Of course, painting gives an opportunity to learn about colors and textures too and we did talk about that a little bit, but for the most part, today was about free-flowing creativity.

What did Mommy learn today? That his little imagination is always going. I bet if the dinosaur would have been nearby, we’d have painted with that too.

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Day 40: Library June 1, 2010

Our Library

We go to the library about once a week, so I thought I’d take this day to recognize it. Because, I LOVE the library. Let me count the ways. One, I hope it helps instill a love of reading in my children. Two, I hope it pushes them to do well academically in the future. Three, the books we read inspire project ideas. Four, our books at home get kind of tired and boring, so the library books spice it up a bit for FREE (and you know how I love free). Five, when I’m lucky and they are available, I can check out passes to go to the city museums for FREE (again with the free thing). And Six, I usually make a gratuitous stop at Dunkin Donuts on the way home for a cup of my very favorite coffee in the whole wide world. What could be bad about all of that?

Zach has started to become more and more excited about going to the library. I have to¬† be careful about telling him that we’ll be making the trip on days I’m planning to go there. If I tell him too early, he will DEMAND to go to the library and get extremely frustrated when we don’t leave right THEN.

I think, besides getting to take home books, he loves the little “his size” tables and chairs they have in the kids section. I try to take some time to read to him while we are there, provided the babies stay content and quiet. A crying baby’s volume is magnified about 10 times in a quiet library. So is a screaming toddler’s for that matter, but Zach is usually pretty good.

The library also stocks a bin full of crayons and a stack of coloring books in the kids section. And while Zach will almost always refuse to color at home without a lot of prompting, he will do it happily at the library.

In the past, I’ve let him color while I walked around the children’s section and picked out books on his behalf. Today, I decided, I would let him pick the books. No matter what he picked (and there are some interesting choices), we would take it home.

Zach’s book picking process is not super involved. Basically he walks around, randomly grabs a book of the shelf and hands it to me. I’m not sure he even looks at it. But, if I tried putting it back thinking it might not have been an appropriate book for him (too long, too short, over his head, whatever), he seriously protested. So, I kept them all. Funny thing is, I think we’ll all learn a few things. And I think I’ve got some project ideas already cooking up to go along with some of these.

Here are our selections:

I Like It When… by Mary Murphy

It’s a book about a baby bird (penguin??) and a caregiver bird (maybe a mommy, maybe a daddy, maybe a grandparent, it could be anyone). The baby bird is telling the caregiver all the things he or she likes it when they do. Pretty simple and all stuff any kid will recognize.

Musicians of the Sun by Gerald McDermott

This one is written by a Caldecott Medal Winner, so you know the pictures are good. It’s a story about an Aztec Legend. The book’s pictures have lots of interesting shapes and colors. I can see an art project or two coming out of it. Along with obvious shape and color lessons.

The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Ed Young

This book did win the Caldecott Medal, so again, great imagery. Zach really liked it when we flew kites. He also loves the episode of Little Einsteins where they rescue Dragon Kites (again…there I go with TV). I think we’ll do a project where we make a dragon kite. The story is about an emperor’s tiny daughter and how she saves him with her kite. It’s kind of a neat story that illustrates how even very small people can accomplish big things. And a lesson to adults to not take anyone for granted.

The Art Book for Children Phaidon

This is more of a reference book with a lot of famous paintings, sculptures, drawings, etc. The text will be a little much for Zach, but we can look through it and talk about shapes, colors, feelings, etc. One of the paintings in the book is Number 1, 1948 by Jackson Pollock. It’s kind of a splatter painting. I think we’ll make our own. I bet Zach would have fun with it! Here is the painting:

Number 1, 1948 by Jackson Pollock

The City Kid & The Suburb Kid by Deb Pilutti

This book could become relevant if we ever move to the suburbs one day. It’s a story, told from two points of view. A boy from the city and a boy from the suburbs each take turns visiting each other. Each one tells their point of view of how the other one lives. It’s been called a new twist on the Aesop fable The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse.

It should be interesting to go through all of these books with Zach, and I certainly can’t wait to do the art projects. Many of the books are very long, for a 2-year-old, so we’ll have to see how that plays out, but I can get the basic story across and we can always break them up.

What did Zach learn today? The excitement of picking out his own books, which is really teaching him it’s OK to make his own choices.

What did Mommy learn? That Zach makes some rather interesting choices. And he seemed to be drawn to some very colorful books!